Jérémie Mathes is upfront regarding the nature of Efequén. The album is not intended to be a “pure or realistic sound map”, but a series of impressions manipulated to create a blended work. In this instance, the field recordings were made on the remote island of Lanzarote, a location rich in natural resonance. The variety of sounds sparks interest in the listener, who becomes curious to discover their origins.
While the opening piece contains the sound of crowd noise, subsequent pieces concentrate on multiple natural and man-made environments. “Ciclos” is immediately fascinating because the sonic combinations seem more random than happenstance might allow. After further investigation, one learns that the track is “a hybrid combination of sound elements from bubbling aquatic plants, a decaying metal bridge and aeolian effects on constructions”. That’s a mouthful, and the description implies that it may be a mess, but it’s not. The soundscape unfolds in distinct chapters, from trickle to buzz to metallic rush – never sudden, always blended just enough to ease the transition. The thicker passages even recall the work of artists such as eRikm and Zbeen, who incorporate factory noises in their electronic compositions. In fact, the very nature of Mathes’ constructions qualifies them for electronic definition; it’s just not what one is used to calling electronic music.
While some may prefer the “pure” to the “adulterated”, the field recording to the soundscape, a soundscape provides the opportunity to paint a fuller picture. Ironically, a processed work may say more about a specific location than an unprocessed work that tackles the same location, in that the latter treatment can only reflect its subject, while the former may operate in the realm of parable or paint. The phrase “sound painter” applies to Mathes, whose choices of what to include, what to discard, and what to combine bring to light an impression of an island that unfolds like a story. For example, a normal tourist might not wish to visit an abandoned hotel next to a beach littered with ocean-spawned debris; but Mathes makes the location sound enticing. His treatment spotlights the literal sense of a figurative statement: “That sounds like a place I’d love to visit”. Lanzarote might not sound as mysterious in person as it does on this album, but Mathes has just provided us with an alternative Lanzarote, one that is no less real because it is fabricated. (Richard Allen)